Day of Democratic Education Challenges Students to Become a Social Movement

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The Bottom Line Staff Report

To some University of California, Santa Barbara students, Jan. 18 was a day like any other. Yet to those in attendance of the “Day Of Democratic Education,” many notes of wisdom and wit were known. Over 50 faculty and graduate students led dialogic panel-discussions to address concerns raised by the recent election at Corwin Pavilion and other locations on campus.

The speakers emphasized social movements, government processes, and in some cases, simply why it pays not to become (or stay) apathetic. The series ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and had a remarkable diversity of speakers. Those at the lectern ranged from physicists and sociologists to linguists and political scientists, just to name a few.

The panels usually followed a format in which the panelists presented their ideas and thoughts on the current political state, which then followed questions from the students and faculty in attendance. The questions and discussions represented the fear and concerns many students have of the Trump administration, as many audience members thought his campaign promoted hate, racism, and Islamophobia across the nation.

In many lectures, the speakers were electric: Passionate, resonate, and teeming with a will to help students comprehend and resist the changing political scene before them. Some lecturers were dispassionate. They merely wished to compare the current social environment with the past in their area of expertise. Others gave students as much general wisdom in how to make positive change as they could convey.

Of the latter, some cited extreme cases of activism. Chican@ studies professor Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval cited an “eight” day hunger strike Cesar Chavez once engaged in as exemplary of the extent activists are sometimes willing to go to achieve their goals. A.S. Assistant Director for Community Affairs and Engagement Aaron Jones claimed that “UCSB wouldn’t look how it does now without student mobilization.”

Students stood and voiced how important it was to have forums such as this one and the discussions need to be ongoing. The turnout showed how interested students were in this and similar discussions as there were over 100 students at the education panel. In regards to ensuring a better public education system students suggest that ethnic, gender, and sexuality classes need to be required at public institutions, along with emphasis on dignity.

However, for those less keen for extreme activism or simply lacking the gustatory resilience to skip a week’s worth of grub, there were other beliefs of what constitutes a successful movement. Professor Emeritus Richard Flacks opined that a successful social movement required not necessarily starvation, but demographic diversity.

“You can’t just have a student based movement. It has to have a larger connection to society,” the sociologist warned. Other lecturers echoed Flacks’s sentiments on a larger movement, with visiting Brown University associate dean Tricia Rose suggesting that it isn’t just about fighting, but understanding what to fight for. Rose further challenged the crowd to imagination the future they want for themselves and future generations.   

“We don’t want to think this is so crushing that we can’t get out because we have before and we will again,” Rose said, “but one of the ways out is using one’s imagination which can be use to formulate political action.”

UCSB professors echoed Rose’s sentiments, redirecting their attention to the students in the crowd. “We are looking to you to lead us in many ways,” said history professor Sherene Seikaly at the panel on United States global relations.

In answering what actions should be taken in protecting the human rights of U.S. citizens, Seikaly applauded student movement and student leadership as being an incredible source of mobilization, and told students that their task is mobilizing collectively among all the groups that are being targeted by the new administration.

One student expressed how thrilled she was that she could be in a public space where people can be respectful when sharing their thoughts and ideas for a better tomorrow. After most lectures, earnest students descended on the podium with questions or even civil critiques of many speakers. The power transferred was powerful and could seem overwhelming. But if any clear takeaway could be apprehended, it was that many people who cared about the world’s future were present and listening.

At an immigration panel early in the day, history professor Paul Spickard addressed a full room of students in South Hall at the end of his workshop with a short statement that summarized what many professors wanted to say.

“There is a higher law and its human decency,” Spickard said.

Andrew Melese and Anthony Chase-In-Winter contributed to this article.

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